Parents reveal why they dread mealtimes as they struggle to keep kids happy with healthy food

PARENTS dread family mealtimes – here's why they struggle to keep fussy eaters happy.

Sitting down to dinner with everyone is a "stressful" experience, according to 35 per cent of mums and dads.

Tea time is made tricky when kids won’t finish their meal, refuse to stay at the table for long, and complain about the food on offer. So much so, that 41% of parents struggle to enjoy their own meal.

One in six even prefer to serve the children first and eat their own meal in peace later on.

Encouraging kids to eat healthy is always a battle, with more than half of all parents struggling to get their children eating a healthy balance of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates.

Nearly three quarters of children even ask for a takeaway over a home cooked meal.

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Vegetables are the hardest food to get a child to eat, followed by proteins such as fish, eggs and lean meat, and healthy carbs like brown bread or wholegrain rice.

Sprouts, mushrooms, olives and onions are the foods children are most likely to fuss over at dinner.

While others will pick out or refuse to eat prawns, broccoli, cous cous and salmon.

Poor cooking skills could be to blame, as more than a fifth of parents say they're not confident in serving up a meal everyone will like. Over 50% wish they had help in the kitchen.

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In a bid to keep the children happy, half of parents find it easier to pull something out of the freezer for convenience, 29 per cent serve up sweets and chocolate and 28 per cent will opt for a ready meal.

Parents fighting to feed the whole family well often cook up to three meals a night to provide food everyone will like and finish.

Many believe with more time and money, they could do a better job of producing more balanced evening meals.

Joanne Lunn, a nutritionist for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We know mealtimes can be really stressful for families, with parents worried they aren't getting the balance of foods right or that fussy eating will get in the way of eating healthily.

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“Small changes to how families approach meals can make a big difference.

“Getting children involved in meal planning and preparation; letting children select their own food from a communal bowl or serving sauces on the side. Easy changes like this really can make mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone.”

John Lewis Partnership, which commissioned the research, is joining forces with the charity Home-Start UK to launch Healthy Happy Homes – a programme designed to help families improve their health and wellbeing.

The Healthy Happy Homes programme kicks off with a focus on food and nutrition, with further activity supporting safer sleep and family finances coming later this year.

Top foods kids fuss over

1.            Sprouts

2.            Mushrooms

3.            Olives

4.            Onions

5.            Prawns

6.            Broccoli

7.            Cous cous

8.            Salmon

9.            Peppers

10.         Tomatoes

11.         Lettuce

12.         Tuna

13.         Peas

14.         Carrots

15.         Cod

16.         Eggs

17.         Gammon ham

18.         Beef steak

19.         Beef mince

20.         Chicken drumsticks

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